Short drive ends in flames for Volkswagon van

A drive around the block ended in flames for the owners of an old Volkswagen van Thursday afternoon.

The van had been sitting idle for some time on the 400 block of Willow Street and half-way through the first lap around the block, smoke started trailing out the back, said David Shepherd, acting captain of the Ashland Fire and Rescue team that responded to Thursday's incident at 4:20 p.m.

The van made it home and the owners, who declined to comment or give their names, and neighbors attempted to douse the flames with fire extinguishers and hoses. When those attempts failed, they called 9-1-1, Shepherd said.

"We arrived on scene and found the back of the van totally involved," he said. "It wasn't touching any structures, but it was starting to move up into the large tree above it."

Crews took about five minutes to get the fire under control with a mixture of foam and water, he said, longer than most vehicle fires because a stream of fuel was leaking out of the gas tank.

The most likely cause of the fire was recent engine work on the van, he said, although the engine compartment was burnt so badly that they were unable to determine a true point of origin. No injuries were reported during the incident.

Car fires are some of the most common incidents fire crews respond to, he said, and they sometimes can be controlled with a basic fire extinguisher.

"We would encourage everyone to have at least one fire extinguisher in their home and even better, one in their car," he said. "When we teach people how to use fire extinguishers, our rule of thumb is if you are comfortable trying to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher, then go ahead and try. If you're uncomfortable, get out of the area and call 9-1-1."

Kaiya Spain, 12, watched the incident from across the street.

"It was kind of freaky, and I was thinking how they were feeling, trying to put myself in that situation," she said. "It was kind of hard to put out. It looked like they had it and then it started to get bigger."

Julie French can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227

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